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First Book Grant Gives Summer Books to Students

Where did you spend $2.00 this week? What if $2.00 could buy a child books for the summer?

Typical end-of-year events at local elementary schools include a visit from the public librarian, encouraging students to read during summer vacation. At , this year's visit from the was only one part of a big push to reduce summer slide.

When University of Georgia sophomore Alex Heddon met OAES's media specialist Deirdre Sugiuchi last fall, one of her questions was what she could do to help the students. Sugiuchi's quick reply was, "My kids can never get too many books. You could help us buy books for the kids."

Heddon left OAES and, unbeknownst to Sugicuhi, started a chapter of the national non-profit, First Book, at UGA. First Books provides access to new books for children who need them. First Book - UGA is able to provide a new book to a student every time they raise $2.

First Book - UGA fundraising during their first year involved simple efforts like a lollipop sale as well as a large event like the Green Eggs and Ham Benefit Dinner in late March. The lollipop drive was especially exciting. Heddon was amazed by this simple fundraising concept saying, "It was actually amazing. We made $300 alone from selling lollipops just at the UGA homecoming game."

Heddon returned to Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School library in March with good news. The brand-new First Book - UGA organization had raised more than $2,000 to buy summer books for the students.

"I had about a week to order 1,100 books, which was crazy," remembers Sugiuchi. "We really wanted to do the distribution before the end of school because of summer slide."

The phenomenen knows as "summer slide" or "learning loss" is what can happen to students during summer vacation. If students don't read in the summer, they can lose the knowledge and skills that they acquired during the school year.

Sugiuchi was struck by the sense of connection between the First Book - UGA volunteers and the students of OAES as each student was given one fiction and one non-fiction book. The students were excited and thankful. Sugiuchi told them, "The best way to thank First Book - UGA is to read and to go to the library this summer!"

Sugiuchi hopes that the success of  the first year of First Book - UGA will serve as a model for UGA students. "This is an example setting at it's finest. We have students at Georgia's flapship university from all over the world. We need them to help the community they live in and give back to Athens-Clarke County."

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